I am the current Oncology Research Fellow at the University of Utah. I am posting this for those that failed to match and 3rd years that are considering not entering the match next year. Having been in your shoes last year, I know it's a terrible feeling and I urge you to take some time to rethink things before taking the next step. But I also hope this serves as a source of hope for those looking for a solid backup plan.
If you should decide to pursue reapplying using a research year (and for 3rd year med students looking to take a gap year before applying), I'd like to share a fantastic research opportunity at the University of Utah that I've participated in this past year and would strongly recommend.
If you're sure of what you're plan is, skip ahead to the description of the research fellowship position.
First steps after a failed match:
· Contact Program Director for your program. Also contact anyone that is able to find ACGME openings as these will find program availabilities that aren't necessarily broadcast or easy to find. Programs don't love broadcasting that they didn't fill their match.
· Quick decisions need to be made about whether you want to reapply. Take advice of anyone who wrote you a letter or programs you did your aways at. Look for someone that's a straight shooter rather than just telling you what you want to hear.
· If you don't want to reapply contact your medical school deans and request setting up quick rotations that will allow you to have letters during the soap process. If you can swing late interviews for programs like gen surg and radiology at your own program, you should definitely take them.
· If you want to reapply there will be two (technically three) options, Prelim surgery year or a research year (with and without graduating). Prelim surgery year will give you more flexibility if you change your mind and you'll earn a larger salary. This allows you to match into radiology, surgery, anesthesia, or even a very rare urology program without even missing a year. A research year is less flexible and you should only choose this if you're certain of reapplying in urology. It allows much more exposure to urologists (letter opportunities), improves your CV, and also gives you more flexibility for the interview season. This is a great option but likely won't help you if your biggest weakness was board scores or clerkship grades. Doing research will make you a more interesting candidate and can turn a mediocre candidate into a good/great candidate, but it likely won't fix someone that wasn't a competitive candidate without research.
Who should take a research year:
The best applicants for this program are those that are relatively competitive already. I strongly believe a research year can’t correct for things that make you “unmatchable” board scores (<220), failed classes etc. Such programs really fit best for people who also haven’t fully flushed out their CV.
A few details:
Location: University of Utah in Salt Lake City, UT
Title: Urologic Oncology Research Fellow
Primary mentors: William T Lowrance, MD, MPH; Brock O’Neil, MD; and Heidi Hanson, PhD, MS
Responsibilities: Simply put, be academically productive. You will have a very flexible schedule and nobody will micro-manage you. You will decide which projects to work on and will be first author of projects that you do the majority of the work for. The best results from this year will be if you place yourself as the epicenter of research for the department. All faculty are very approachable and love to have a motivated researcher around, and you are encouraged to work on projects with whomever you like (and Dr. Lowrance will also help you say no to projects you're not interested in, if that happens to be the case). Project opportunities are very broad. My projects the last year have ranged from clinical outcomes research in uro/onc, infertility, and reconstruction, to population-based studies using the Utah Population Database (UPDB), health services research, and even guiding my own trials.
A few reasons that I think you should consider this opportunity above others:
1. People/Support - everyone here is incredibly easy to work with and friendly. When it came time to apply, the group sat me down and worked out the best combination of letters and faculty that would help my application. They requested a list of programs that I was interested in and faculty members across the department made calls both to help me land more interviews. I had multiple interviewers tell me that they didn't think it's possible for anybody to write more outstanding letters. I missed plenty of work and ended up taking 22 interviews with the complete support of my mentors.
2. Productivity - as with anything, what you make of it. The opportunities are more than plentiful, and with the UPDB team, in many cases the data pulling and analysis is done for you and you just have to write the paper. By the end of my time here, I will have:
3 Suo presentations, 4 AUA presentations, an AUA update, a book chapter, and many manuscipts of varying prestige (international journal of urology-JNCI)
3. Location/ Quality of Life - SLC is heaven for anyone who remotely likes to be outside - 4 ski resorts <45 mins away, incredible bike/running/hiking trails, and is just absolutely beautiful year round (except for the inversion (google it)). Cost of living/rent is very low and I've been living in a very nice 2 bedroom for $1250.
All in all, I've had an amazing year that has been relaxing, productive, and most importantly, resulting in a successful match. I ironically matched with the University of Utah. I think its a testament to how great the research year is with this program. Also DO NOT consider this research fellowship as a way to match with this program if you're particular interested in Salt Lake City. It is definitely harder to match here as a research fellow compared to being a traditional applicant.
For those interested in applying, please send a CV and ERAS application to firstname.lastname@example.org. For questions (whether about the research year or just input about what to do if you don't match) email email@example.com. I've personally participated in 2 years of this and had a total of 37 interviews now so I've had a ton of exposure to this process.
Best wishes to everyone and I hope to see you all as future colleagues!